Locke and the Way of Ideas

John Yolton, Locke and the Way of Ideas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956).


Without in any way denying that Locke’s philosophy was influenced by Continental movements of thought, Dr. Yolton in this excellent study argues, and indeed establishes the point,t hat Locke in writing the Essay had in mind the many debates then being waged in England, mostly on moral and religious topics. The Essay says comparatively little directly about these topics, but what it does say on other matters, epistemological and metaphysical, is very relevant to these debates, and this, Dr. Yolton thinks, is no accident. He seeks to set the Essay “within the context of its own century” and against its own English background, by examining some of the more significant writings of the second half of the seventeenth century up to 1690 and by estimating too the effect of the Essay on Locke’s contemporaries after 1690.

–From Richard Aaron in Philosophy (April 1958).